For a period in the late 80s and early 90s Joes Café was a space highly charged with monochrome flash, fashion and cool. Joseph himself sadly passed away in 2010 and Maria Elias Joes (as its now been reinvented), looks very different these days. The bold, silver and black Eva Jiricna interior that was immortalised in Patsy and Edinas Champagne for Lulu! lunch in Absolutely Fabulous has been torn out, with only a stair rail and portholes in the doors downstairs left to remind us how beautiful it was once. Its a less intimidating space now, with breezy, chatty service, warm leather and wood and weirdly chilly mushroom walls, but promise of more framed David Bailey photography to fix the latter.
You might miss the old look, but you certainly wont miss the old menu. What Elia has brought to Brompton Cross is largely fantastic, and should attract an infinitely more discerning, foodie crowd. The menu is arrestingly modern with buzzwords and buzzier ingredients: Carpaccio; pearl barley; marinated beetroot it just doesnt get more au courant than beetroot these days. Among the starters theres slow-braised octopus, mackerel with gooseberry chutney and a haddock (carpaccio, natch) with creme fraiche, lemon and chilli thats the bees knees. Its light but sharp, with a lot of spark.
Elia goes out of her way to create splendid plates for veggies. Her book, The Modern Vegetarian, is Quorn-free food porn for the meatless and her most interesting dishes at Joe's are alternating Textures of platters of one veg done several different ways. We shared the Textures of Peas, which included a soup, a mousse, pods and an orrechiette; each emerald green, each delicious and when grouped together, pretty enough to warrant reaching for the Hipstamatic. Monkfish with preserved lemon cous cous was similarly wonderful, although the strawberry risotto with bitter radicchio was perhaps a little overly complicated with too many ingredients in the mix. Many will love it, though. Puddings are appealingly small, and big on fresh fruit. Elias cooking gives an overall impression of being offbeat but gently so, and full of lightness and freshness. Its bringing culinary chic back to JOEs, and one of Londons most enticing fashion districts, in a big way.
The ELLEuk Score
Style of food: Contemporary British/European
Good for: Quick bite after work; Pre-theatre; Special occasion; First date; Group dinner; Work lunch/dinner
Prices & Other Details at Joes
Address: 126 Draycott Avenue, London SW3 3AH
Opening times: 9am-11pm Tue-Sat; 9am-6pm Sun-Mon
Average price per person for two-course meal without wine: £23
Set menu: Lunch Mon-Fri, £15 (two courses) or £17 (three courses)
Price of bottle house wine: £21, Rodero Arneis, Vigne Sparse (white); £19 Cabernet/Malbec, Finca Los Prados (red)
Price of glass house wine: £5 (as above)
Price of glass house champagne: £11, Olivier Collin
Price of bottle house champagne: £50 (as above)
Private dining? No
Outdoor dining? No
Bar? For pre-dinner cocktails
Best table(s): The tables in the back area have less noise from the street, but can feel cut off on a quiet evening
Who goes? A very international Chelsea crowd, and of course Brompton Cross ladies who lunch
Nearest tube: South Kensington